It’s impossible to prepare for something as fundamentally life-altering as the dreaded lockdown.
It’s been a financial nightmare, with businesses incurring huge daily losses. Social distancing is tough. And not being able to see friends, colleagues and family is even tougher.
But these aside, I’ve also made memories. There are many silver linings to be found, if only you know where to look…
Reality Sets In
I remember the day that I felt that the reality of COVID-19 would hit us hard in the UK. It was about five or six weeks before lockdown-proper.
I was in the gym, warming up on the cross trainer, and coronavirus was all over the news. The newsreader was reporting on a plane full of passengers recently arrived in the UK from COVID-sick Wuhan.
I knew right then that it was only a matter of time before the viral spread would hit us all hard. I was scared. I was scared for my family and the people around me. And I was scared of the rate at which this mysterious virus was killing.
Theories were flying around as to how the infection had started and spread and every country was taking a different approach to the threat. Italy was Europe’s first significant casualty and the word on the ground there wasn’t just scary but downright terrifying.
Conversations continued at the watercooler and on social media: “It’s just like the flu,” some theorised. “It only kills the elderly or those with underlying conditions,” said others – as if that somehow made it all okay.
This sort of talk made me feel like older people were being cast aside like they no longer mattered. We all know someone of a vulnerable age. And many of us will one day fall into that category ourselves. Something about the blasé tone of these conversations didn’t sit right.
Over the following weeks, I carried on pretty much as usual and was still travelling regularly to central London. On March 12th, I remember walking across the busy concourse at Euston. The station was busy as usual, and I couldn’t help imagining my head coated with the deadly virus.
“It’s okay,” I thought. “I’m one of the healthy ones.”
Earlier that day, I’d been overseeing a photoshoot at Aqua Dental Clinic in Hatch End. I’d shook hands, interacted as usual, and it was – as far as I was concerned – business as usual.
On my way back to London central, I visited the offices of Enlighten Smiles to see my good friend and podcast co-host Payman Langroudi. When I held out my arms in preparation for our usual hug, Payman waved his finger: “No way!” He admonished. “Are you crazy?”
The following morning, I met another of my best mates, Danny Watson, for a catch-up and chinwag in Starbucks. “We hugging bro?” I asked him nervously.
“Too f***ing right!”
If the virus takes me, Danny has the dubious claim of being the last non-family member with whom I shared physical contact.
Schools were still open, but the decision to bring my kids home the next day was another easy one. We’ve been together at home since.
After the initial shock of lockdown wore off, I knew we’d be in this for at least the next few months. I sat down with my wife and put together a daily routine. Without this, I think life in our lockdown household would have quickly become intolerable.
My routine goes like this:
I’m up at 5.30 am and hit the gym for an hour. I follow this with a cold shower for 3-4 minutes before giving the girls their breakfast. I’m in the home office by 9 am and ready to start the day.
At 11 am I take a Zoom meeting with The Fresh team – no ifs, no buts. Our daily scrum is a chance for team members to catch up, reflect and coordinate the day’s work ahead.
I’ve reserved midday for the first of several times set aside for family. A second follows at 3 pm, when it’s time for reading or playing with the girls. The intervening hours are strictly for work.
A short HIIT training blast of 4-10 minutes at 6.30 pm is enough to pep me up for the evening and dinner at 7 pm marks the start of the evening wind down. The girls are bathed and in bed at 8 pm, leaving Bobbie and me with a few hours chill time before bed.
With occasional minor deviations and adjustments, this has been my everyday lockdown routine. Having structure has kept me mentally positive and moving forward.
It is also where I have found many of lockdown’s hidden silver linings.
No Longer Driven to Distraction
The everyday distractions of running several businesses mean that those back-burner projects and tasks always stay on the back burner. Now those ‘distractions’ are gone, I finally have the breathing room and mental clarity to:
- Develop and document new systems and processes
- Train the team
- Do some business planning
- Listen to my team more
- Put together post-COVID launch plans
- Spend more time speaking to my clients and offering advice and support
- Complete back burner projects
The lockdown has also allowed me to fix broken workflows and overcome organisational challenges that couldn’t be addressed during uptime, as well as giving the team some valuable strategic thinking time.
Speaking of teams, I’m amazed by the way everyone has pulled together. The crisis has verified what I’ve known all along: I’m surrounded by amazing, committed people. It feels good to be excited about the future of business.
Superheroes from Super-Zeroes
It’s at times like this when people’s true colours come to the surface – and that’s a definite positive. It’s helped to confirm a few things for me with family, friends and clients. I’ve decided to separate the chaff, including politely inviting some clients to find another marketing provider when we come out of this mess.
My Health – Father-Son Time
As part of that routine creation process, I wrote myself a training programme and printed out sheets for each session. I also made a solemn promise to myself never to miss a session. I’ve followed my usual ketogenic diet with a twice-weekly fast of 36 and 24 hours. I’ve also introduced a daily cold shower to my routine.
There are no cheat meals and no falling off the wagon, and I’m pleased to see my metrics improving week-by-week.
Recently, my son has started waking up early to join me in the gym – he looks forward to training together. Gym time has been a fantastic bonding experience for us both. I’ve taught him lots about training, correct technique, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see him get healthier and fitter.
Bobbie is cooking some gorgeous meals, and I can hand on heart say I feel superhuman in terms of my health.
A Slower Pace with More Cuddles
Waking up at 6 am and having time to cuddle my wife every morning rather than shooting out of the room at 4-5 am. There’s a noticeably slower pace now and half an hour here or there doesn’t matter. Previously it was all about beating the morning traffic.
Finding time to help my daughters brush their teeth. Lying in bed with them for five minutes before they wake up. Rousing my youngest from her afternoon nap only for her to fall back asleep on my shoulder; playing with their dolls. Storytimes. Even my youngest, calling out: “Daddy, I’ve done a massive poo and I want you to wipe my bum…” These and many more are just some of the thousands of moments that cause me to smile deep from within my heart when I think of them.
There’s something quite special about sitting together at the dinner table for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The conversations and bonding are awe-inspiring. “Daddy, feed me,” my younger girls insist, even though they are quite capable. I play along with pleasure.
My dad is getting time to spend time with girls, too. My four-year-old has happily swapped primary school for “grandad school.” She even packs her school bag in anticipation! My dad loves the time they spend together, and his hard work is paying off. She has gone from being able to read 3-4 letter words to reading books a good 2-3 years ahead of her age and writing creative stories to boot!
No Longer Taking things for Granted
Before lockdown, family meals out were a weekly occurrence. We’d eat out so often that it’d stopped feeling like a treat. And £150 a time in restaurants, typical monthly bills could easily top £600.
The combination of financial pressure with a lack of places to eat out was the gentle persuader we needed. We are now spending less and eating much better at home. I’ve even re-thought my daily Starbucks which – at £3 a day – still adds up to a pretty penny over the month.
No Sugar, Sugar
Because we are eating family meals together, my “different meal” with little or no carbs often comes up in conversation. This has prompted my 17-year-old daughter to cut out chocolates and sugar treats, and the family now enjoys 3-4 low-carb meals a week. We also eat much less bread, sugar and pasta on the whole. My daughter even made me an almond-flour lemon drizzle cake the other day, which tasted just like the real thing but without the associated insulin spike.